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Vietnam vets from the area speak out
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It’s an eye-opening revelation of what Central Valley vets suffered in their Vietnam service where they felt they were braving their fears in combat for their country as they witnessed many of their comrades dropping to their deaths beside them.

“The Combat That Was A War” is a compilation of the experiences of 19 American soldiers who had returned to the U.S. only to meet the wrath of their friends, families and those they met on the streets.  Those who had not suffered physically have gone through psychological trauma that many relive on a daily basis.  Many don’t want to talk about their experiences because it brings on the pain in reliving those experiences.  

The authors currently live in Modesto, Manteca, Oakdale, Riverbank, Lockeford, Oregon and Texas. 

I can only say I am very proud of this group of vets that has been able to tell their graphic stories in an effort to hopefully get the public to understand what they were ordered to experience in that far away land.  Worse yet, the book reflects the surprise of being shunned by their country.

Several weeks ago I walked through the Bookfest event near Bass Pro along the Highway 120 Bypass where I was drawn to a booth set up by vets from Modesto’s Vet Center selling the soft cover book claiming it to be “open, honest, raw and readable.”  It is all of those things and I have continued to read the men’s accounts every night.  It’s a hard piece to put down once you get started because you actually begin to feel first hand the fear and the subsequent losses of their buddies they experienced.

I talked with a vet manning the booth, Mark Tury,  who asked me if I was a veteran.  When I said that I was,  he took my hand in his and shook it with deep appreciation showing on his face.  Even though orders never came for me to go to Korea or Vietnam, he made me feel like a long lost brother from his past.  It was a humbling experience for me, especially since Army aviation was my field of service.  Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft played a big part in the Vietnam conflict that threads its way throughout the book — saving lives of wounded service men with many of those military fliers never returning home. 

One review on the outside cover states, “The 19 contributors had met as members of a Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) therapy group in Modesto.  They open with a preface that neatly and succinctly delineates two of the major themes of those who fought in Vietnam: guerrilla warfare along with the paranoid mindset it engendered and the routine hostility veterans encountered on their return to America, where instead of being treated as heroes they were shunned , and in some cases, literally spat upon.”  – Kirkus Reviews. 

The soldiers took on the mission of writing the book not only to express their experiences but just as important to find answers for themselves and share those answers with others. “The Conflict That Was a War” has been dedicated to the more that 58,000 of their comrades who paid the ultimate price of war and to their families who never got to see their sons, fathers, daughters and husbands walk back through their living room front door again.

The graphic edition is also dedicated to some 153,000 wounded in the Vietnam Conflict who live today with the scars of combat from that war. The dedication is also to the family members who religiously stuck by their loved ones who returned home battered from the war. 

“War, What is it Good For?  Absolutely Nothing!” is the first chapter written by William Bruno.  Bruno was a specialist fourth class who served with the Eleventh Armored Calvary Regiment from July 1968 to July of 1969.  

Sp. 4 Bruno told of his compound being overrun by North Vietnamese soldiers in the middle of the night with the men of his unit responding half asleep to defend their positions. He told of the  incoming  enemy soldiers throwing their bodies on top of the barbed wire enclosures to allow other combatants to climb over the fencing in their attack of the American troops.  He recalled like there was no end to their numbers with his unit fighting them off all night long.

Another valley soldier, Sp. 4 James Carlo Calibro was attached to the U.S. Army First Calvary Division Medevac where he served for a year from June of 1967 to 1968.  He was assigned to the Fifteenth Medical Battalion but when he arrived in the extreme heat in the county he was assigned as a door gunner on a medevac helicopter.

He was quickly told that the gunner he was replacing had been killed in the conflict on the previous day.  Calibro wrote that he flew two missions that first night – told to wait on the initial run because of active ground fire.  The helicopter crew, including a crew chief and medic, had to clean out the chopper after every rescue flight.  Some times there was so much blood on the floors  that they had to wash off the deck with buckets of water when time permitted – cleaning out the blood that had seeped into the floor panels.

“Medevac never refused a mission,” Calibro wrote. 

Others faced booby traps, land mines and tunnels – some reaching under what was thought to be safe compound areas only to have the enemy pop up out of those tunnels.

Helicopter crew chief Spec. 5 Randy Brewer with a Medevac Air Ambulance Platoon in 1967 and 1968.  He tells of his aircraft being hit by ground fire that pierced the tail rotor drive shaft.  He remembered a general saying he was tired of having his medevac helicopters being shot up and had machine guns installed on both sides of the aircraft.

Each chapter in the book comes from the guarded memories, hearts and souls of the men who penned those stories that will forever live in their minds.  Hopefully writing their personal accounts will help relieve some of those haunting memories that have stayed with them all this time.  And, hopefully their efforts will educate members of the public to recognize the true heroes who live today in their neighborhoods.

A second Book “The Wounds of the Soul” is expected to be in bookstores and available through Amazon by the middle of December.  In the new series of stories wive of the veterans are being included to tell their stories focusing on the effects of PTSD on their home environments.

The Modesto Vet Center in Modesto is a non-profit 501-(C-3) with all monies being tax deductible.  Sales of the book have brought a variety of gifts from the less than $20 copy price to one professional who put down a $100 bill for the service men and women.

To contact Glenn Kahl email or call 209.249.3539.